Ma Tovu

Ma Tovu

Ma Tovu (Hebrew for "O How Good" or "How Goodly") is a prayer in Judaism, expressing reverence and awe for synagogues and other places of worship.

The prayer begins with , where Balaam, sent to curse the Israelites, is instead overcome with awe at God and the Israelites' houses of worship. Its first line of praise is a quote of Balaam's blessing and is thus the only prayer commonly used in Jewish services that was written by a non-Jew. The remainder of the text is derived from passages in Psalms relating to entering the house of worship and preparation for further prayer (; ; and ). In this vein is the prayer recited by Jews upon entering the synagogue.

Hebrew text

מה טבו אהליך יעקב, משכנותיך ישראל. (1 Numbers 24:5

ואני ברב חסדך אבוא ביתך אשתחוה אל היכל קדשך ביראתך. (2 Psalms 5:7

3) .ה׳ אהבתי מעון ביתך, ומקום משכן כבודך Psalms 26:8

ואני אשתחוה ואכרעה, אברכה לפני ה׳ עשי. (4 Psalms 95:6 (adapted)

5) .ואני, תפלתי לך ה׳, עת רצון, אלהים ברב חסדך, ענני באמת ישעך Psalms 69:13

Transliteration

Ma tovu ohalekha Ya'akov, mishk'notekha Yisra'el.
Va'ani b'rov hasd'kha, avo veytekha,
Eshtahaveh el heikhal kodsh'kha b'yir'atekha.
Adonai ahavti m'on beitekha, um-kom mishkan k'vodekha.
Va'ani eshtahave v'ekhra'a.
Evr'kha lifnei Adonai osi.
Va'ani t'filati l'kha Adonai et ratzon.
Elohim b'rov hasdekha aneini b'emet yish'ekha.

English translation

How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!
And I, with Your great loving-kindness, shall enter Your House; I shall prostrate myself toward Your Holy Temple in the fear of You.
O Lord, I love the dwelling of Your house and the place of the residence of Your glory.
Come, let us prostrate ourselves and bow; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.
But, as for me, may my prayer to You, O Lord, be in an acceptable time. O God, with Your abundant kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation.

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